Gwenyth Todd had worked in a lot of places in Washington where powerful men didn’t hesitate to use sharp elbows. She had been a Middle East expert for the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. She had worked in the office of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in the first Bush administration, where neoconservative hawks first began planning to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
But she was not prepared a few years later in Bahrain when she encountered plans by high-ranking admirals to confront Iran, any one of which, she reckoned, could set the region on fire. It was 2007, and Todd, then 42, was a top political adviser to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Previous 5th Fleet commanders had resisted various ploys by Bush administration hawks to threaten the Tehran regime. But in spring 2007, a new commander arrived with an ambitious program to show the Iranians who was boss in the Persian Gulf.
Vice Adm. Kevin J. Cosgriff had amassed an impressive résumé, rising through the ranks to command a cruiser and a warship group after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Following a customary path to three stars, he had also spent as much time in Washington as he had at sea, including stints at the Defense Intelligence Agency and as director of the Clinton White House Situation Room.